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Aug 9, 2004 12:20 pm

A College Education ...

When reports surfaced at the end of last week that Home Security Secretary Tom Ridge intended to leave his position after the November election, the reason offered was that he needed to re-enter the private sector in order to pay for his children's college education. Maybe he simply wants out of a very difficult position and, clearly, he isn't impoverished. His home in Bethesda, Maryland, prices out in the high six figures and he has other resources.

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries (scroll down to 8/7/2004) notes that when the story got picked up in newspapers across the country, they had little sympathy for Ridge but lots of concern for ordinary people with limited resources. Colleges and universities have become extra-ordinarily expensive. There's no end in sight to it and it isn't only that private institutions are expensive. Soltan points to high costs at the University of North Carolina and extra-curricular embarrassments at the University of Georgia. Holding the spiraling costs of administration, student services, and competitive athletics accountable, she says it's time to look again at Tim Burke's proposal for a new college, which defines its mission as education. The proposal looks Spartan to fans of the Bulldogs and the Tarheels, but maybe there ought to be other institutions that"engage the whole person." Colleges and universities ought to look to their primary mission.

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Ralph E. Luker - 8/9/2004

I don't disagree with you at all, Brian. Research and writing are ways that teachers continue to be learners.

Carl Patrick Burkart - 8/9/2004

While it is true that some athletics teams bring in money for Universities this is only true for a few big time programs. Most of the time, they operate at a net loss.

I'm not sure about sports teams bringing in alumni contributions, but I imagine that if you are worried about revenue there are more efficient ways of raising money that create fewer conflicts with academic values*

*Please note: the above refers to big time sports like football and basketball. I am aware of the generally positive impact of the smaller, less popular sports programs.

Brian Ulrich - 8/9/2004

Incidentally, is it true that some sports actually make money for their schools? I know this was true of my high school basketball team. I'd imagine the gate and TV revenue, not to mention merchandising, on the UW football team amounts to quite a bit. The performance of sports teams is also supposed to affect alumni contributions.

Brian Ulrich - 8/9/2004

I resist characterizing an interest in teaching as simply idealistic. One could argue that pushing the frontiers of knowledge further than they are and believing it is significant is equally idealistic and just as challenging. When I think of the things that lured me into this profession - working to impart the knowledge thus discovered or created to a broader audience, creating new programs that will build bridges across cultures, and being part of an institution that helps to form the next generation of citizens, I think of them as highly professional activities with many talented practitioners. By continuing to accept the label of idealists, those interested in education concede the idea that those leading a primarily research-oriented life are the ones who "have it all," while we are nobly sacrificing ourselves by doing something other than the supposed true goals of every academic.

Unless, of course, I'm just still idealistic...

Jonathan Dresner - 8/9/2004

You're going to have some competition for East Asia, I'm afraid, particularly in the area of literature and history. How about I take history and futurology?

Actually, I suspect that all the academic categories will be quite oversubscribed; it's the non-academic slots that are going to be harder to define and fill.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/9/2004

Julie, One of the great strengths of Tim's proposal is its appeal to all of us who chose to teach in higher education. Our idealism is an enormous resource which might still be tapped.

Julie A Hofmann - 8/9/2004

Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, and East Asia. Lots of interdisciplinary classes to be planned with the lit and art history people, not to mention Poli Sci. Really. Will teach for peanuts and relative job security ...